China’s FM in Afghanistan, to meet his counterpart

Updated on Mar 24, 2022 05:18 PM IST

Beijing has remained tightlipped about the details of Wang’s ongoing tour, and China’s official media has released statements and reports only after his meetings with the Pakistani leadership were over.

Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) speaks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad on Wednesday. (AFP)
Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (right) speaks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad on Wednesday. (AFP)
BySutirtho Patranobis I Beijing

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi landed in Kabul on Thursday to meet his Afghan counterpart, the highest-level visit by a Chinese official since the Taliban swept to power in August, 2021.

“Chinese foreign minister arrives in Kabul for talks with Islamic Emirate leaders,” Ahmad Yasir, a top Taliban government official, tweeted.

Wang arrived in Kabul from Islamabad where he attended a two-day meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Pakistan Day celebrations.

Wang, who is also one of China’s state councillors, is on a South Asia tour during which he has been to Pakistan and will visit Nepal between March 25 and 27.

Wang is expected to reach New Delhi Thursday night.

There’s been no official word from either New Delhi or Beijing about Wang’s India visit though news reports have said it was finalised at China’s request.

Beijing has remained tightlipped about the details of Wang’s ongoing tour, and China’s official media has released statements and reports only after his meetings with the Pakistani leadership were over.

Wang’s Afghanistan visit will be a short but crucial one, given the Taliban government has been working on being diplomatically recognised by China and restarting work at the embassy in Beijing.

Wang Yi’s visit comes in the backdrop of talks being reopened to resume copper mining in Mes Aynak, in Afghanistan’s Logar region.

According to a Tolo News agency report earlier this month, the Taliban government has asked China Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC Group) to pursue the project that’s been stalled for years.

“The agreements signed in May 2008 between the then Western-backed Afghan government and the MCC Group, called for the Chinese side to pay $400 million a year for a 30-year mining concession,” the report said.

According to the Tolo news agency, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum had said on March 14 that a Chinese delegation will arrive in Kabul by the end of this month. “They will be physically in Kabul in March and will discuss the issue with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum,” said Esmatullah Borhan, spokesperson of the mines ministry.

Wang Yi’s visit will also likely focus on the resumption of work at the Afghan embassy in Beijing, which hasn’t been functional since ambassador Javid Ahmad Qaem, left his post in January after months without pay from Kabul following the Taliban’s seizure of power last August.

In a handover letter dated January 1, which was posted on Twitter, Qaem said that many diplomats at the embassy had already left, and Kabul had not sent them salaries since August.

“There are many reasons, personal and professional, but I don’t want to mention them here,” he said.

In his letter, Qaem said a new person had been assigned to the embassy, naming him only as “Mr Sadaat”.

Qaem’s letter, which was widely circulated online, said that as of January 1 there was $100,000 left in one of the embassy’s bank accounts, as well as an undisclosed sum in another.

The letter also noted that keys to the five embassy cars will be left in Qaem’s office and that two cars need to be scrapped. Some of the Afghan diplomats who were stationed in Beijing have moved to the US.

According to a Xinhua report on Thursday, minister Wang on Wednesday met with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa when the two discussed Afghanistan among a range of issues.

On the Afghanistan issue, Wang called for wisdom of the East to promote dialogue and communication to solve it, instead of resorting to pressure or sanctions. “Both China and Pakistan have encouraged the ruling authorities of Afghanistan to actively build an open and inclusive political framework, implement moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies and resolutely fight all forms of terrorism,” Wang said, according to the Xinhua report.

Noting that Afghanistan enjoys favourable geographical advantages, resources endowment and development potential, Wang said the international community should support Afghanistan in finding the right path of economic development, livelihood improvement and self-reliance.

Beijing and Islamabad have been working closely in dealing with the new Taliban government in Kabul, which swept to power in August, following a chaotic withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.

China shares a short border with Afghanistan and Beijing has dispatched humanitarian supplies to the country since the Taliban’s return to power in August.

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